June 28, 2012
My Love Affair with Flavor
from Chef George Sideras
The memory of flavor is like a Polaroid snap shot. It is a frozen moment in time, slightly faded around the edges, blurry and soft focused. But as soon as you taste or smell that flavor or even the slightest notion of that flavor, the memory comes back, in sharp focus, fresh and glossy. Flavor, that combination of all our senses, creates memories for good or bad that cannot be easily forgotten. Its psychological, emotional and physical connections to our brains imprints our most powerful memories. Such is the memory of the best breakfast I have ever experienced.
It was my second trip to San Francisco, where I was returning as a chef and seeking to embrace the emerging culinary scene. I had heard of this young chef, Bradley Ogden, who was doing remarkable breakfasts at the Boutique European Hotel. Upon entering the hotel dining room, I knew that this was not my local breakfast haunt; there were crisp fresh linens on the table, professional waiters in starched shirts, newspapers in five languages and classical music. All the elements of fine dining, yet 7:00 in the morning - it was elegant, yet comfortable. The menu was small but varied and I immediately wanted to order all the offerings but limited myself to just having two breakfasts that day. Perfectly poached eggs Benedict with a California twist, the Hollandaise was infused with roasted jalapeno peppers ,cilantro and hint of lime over a country smoked ham on a biscuit. The accompaniment was a jicama slaw with a slight acidic edge to contrast the full fat of the eggs. Alongside were some homemade breads and preserves. My second breakfast was a banana bread French toast, breaded in crushed Macadamia nuts and twin syrups of coconut and maple. All washed down with rich, steaming, dark roasted coffee and I was sated and more than contented to meet my Maker. All was right in my world.
I have attempted to recreate that moment in time. And while I can create those flavors and dishes with the exacting technical expertise, never again will all those elements be in exact proportion. Never will all the senses be engaged in the same way that I have in my memories. That is one powerful element of our avocation, those rare moments when it all works and perfection is achieved. That’s what keeps us coming back to the stoves day after day, to find that sweet spot, to create that next sensorial sensation, to offer a lasting memory that will become the ultimate act of hospitality.